Cabinet rejig: Modi drops 12 ministers including Vardhan, Prasad, Javadekar; 43 leaders take oath

New Delhi, Jul 7 (FN Bureau) Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday carried out a major reshuffle of his two-year-old council of ministers by dropping 12 ministers, including Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar and bringing in several new faces and elevating number of junior ministers. Altogether 43 ministers were sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Ommission of senior leaders–Dr Vardhan, Mr Prasad and Mr Javadekar–in the first ever cabinet reshuffle since Mr Modi assumed charge for a second term in May 2019, was a surprise. Dr Vardhan and his junior minister Ashwani Kumar Choubey were asked by the Prime Minister to step down. The devastating second wave of COVID-19, shortage of medical oxygen and irregular supply of anti-COVID-19 vaccines have left the government in an embarrassing situation. Mr Prasad, holding the charge of Information and Technology Ministry, caught in the ongoing battle with social media giants like Twitter and WhatsApp over the new IT rules, was dropped. D V Sadananda Gowda, Thaawarchand Gehlot, Ramesh Pokhriyal, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Babul Supriyo, Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao, Pratap Chandra Sarangi and Sushri Debasree Chaudhuri have also resigned as per a communique from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The 43 leaders who took the oath included Congress turncoat Jyotiraditya Scindia, former Assam chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal, Pashupati Kumar Paras estranged uncle of Lok Jan Shakti leader Chirag Paswan, Anupriya Patel–Mirzapur MP and daughter of Apna Dal founder Sone Lal Patel, Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, the president of the Janta Dal (United) and Narayan Rane, the former chief minister of Maharashtra. The Cabinet reshuffle and expansion took place at 1800 hrs after Mr Modi held a high-level meeting at his official residence. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda were also present. The exercise was slated for 2020 but had to be deferred repeatedly owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A slew of gubernatorial appointments, including that of Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot as the Governor of Karnataka were announced on Tuesday. Also, the government decided to create a separate ‘Ministry of Cooperation with the aim of ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’ (prosperity through cooperatives). Of the 81 slots of the council of ministers, now 79 are filled by the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. The previous reshuffle was conducted in 2017 when Nirmala Sitharaman was made the Defence Minister.